In Mexico, street vendors sell bags of worms and are ready to fry them up on the spot. For those looking for a live alternative, the Devil’s horse, known as “caballero Del diablo” is said to be heavenly.
Instructions to make them better tasting include squeezing the guts out, giving them a saltwater boil, then setting them out to dry. The common earthworm, most notably the red wiggler, also has many of the same protein-rich benefits along with an abundance of omega 3 oil.
Beetle larvae from any species are on the menus in many countries, including South America. In Japan and among some Pacific islands, fly larvae is a specialty, sometimes blended with soy and lemon or lime juice.
You shouldn’t just go out in the neighborhood and start looking for your next snack, however, Many of these creatures are exposed to pesticides, which can have adverse reactions. When preparing store-purchased worms, give them a new home in a bowl filled with corn meal.
This will purge any unwanted foods they’ve previously consumed, while developing those buttery, balcony, meaty, woodsy flavors that make them so good. Moist shredded cardboard is a perfectly edible addition to the worm bin.
In fact, at a ratio of 4:1, carbon based “browns” should be the bulk of your worms’ bedding. Layers of torn up cardboard provide air pockets and tunnels for worm travel.
In only days an active bin begins to transform those bulky paper towel tubes into fine vermicompost. To get your own expert tips delivered right to your inbox just once each month, sign up for our FREE newsletter.
When I was a little boy, I read a funny children’s book called How to Eat Fried Worms. They are potent enough to have been a lynch-pin in the portrayal of fast food as dirty and evil, and legends of the Worm Burger forced McDonald’s to print full-page ads in newspapers on the West Coast, where the legend was most active (discussed below).
If you’ve ever bought a small bucket of nightcrawlers for bait, though, you’d know that beef is a lot cheaper and McDonald’s would not make money off a worm burger. Meal worms, the larval form of the meal worm beetle, or Generic monitor, which is also a perfectly edible by humans, and used in some cultures, have also been said to have been a protein source in McDonald’s burgers.
And lots of kids, similar to Billy, have eaten a worm on a dare, or even gotten one shoved down their throat by bullies. People in other parts of the world eat worms, grubs, and insects, not as a matter of survival, but with enthusiasm.
In the Philippines, the Period excavates species is bred in vegetable waste and then processed with herbs and seasoning to make steak lets for humans to eat. There was also a food supplement called Edgerton, made out of cultured African Nightcrawlers.
Pygmy Chimpanzees regularly eat earthworms, as well, but it is hard to understand why. Perhaps even more weird is the fact that they hardly seem to chew them at all, and the worms remain intact in the feces.
They eat soil, which is ground in a gizzard, and then the waste is ejected as a casting out their rear end. So, you may want to think twice before rushing to the backyard to forage for earthworms to nibble on and if you may want to try to stop your dog from eating them, if possible.
Ironically, the “common” nightcrawler in North America is an invasive, introduced species. In fact, a great many of the earthworms found in the United States, 45 to 60 species or more, were introduced.
The nightcrawler, the largest of these invasive earthworms, came to North America with European settlers, along with others, beginning in the 16th century. These worms probably arrived in the soil used as ballast on ships, or on the root balls of plants.
They continued to arrive with imported ornamental plants, but also as intentional and permitted importations of live bait into the U.S. from Canada.8 If you are old enough to remember that old commercial jingle on the TV show WARP, you know another of the most common introduced species: Red wrigglers, the Cadillac of worms!” Red wrigglers were what were usually sold as bait or for composting, when I was growing up in the South…at least as far as I can remember, and we sometimes found them in the ground.
But the nightcrawler was by far the most plentiful, and was easier to find, especially when it was growing dark, at which time they come closer to the surface. We usually think of earthworms as beneficial to the soil, however, these invasive species can be destructive when introduced into areas where earthworms did not exist before, especially in forests, where they are decomposing action on the leaf litter can alter the ecology in such a way as to make the environment unsuitable for certain trees and plants.
Earthworms do not normally spread very quickly if left to their own devices, but they are easily helped along by humans, such as fishermen who dump leftover bait worms onto the ground. In fact, the rumor originally started about Wendy’s but was switched to McDonald's, since the chain was so much larger.
More recently, in 2012, a Russian woman claimed that her McDonald’s hamburger was full of worms. This was never substantiated and, of course, the urban legend about ground worm burgers is just a myth.
I decided to go on a quest and compile the most comprehensive list that I could have food items they will not (or should not) eat. After all, composting worms are well-known for eating a wide variety of different foods, even some that people wouldn’t traditionally consider edible.
Since they do not decompose easily and worms won’t readily eat them, these peels are better suited for other practical purposes around the home and garden. This is not just because worms don’t like it and won’t eat it, but also because rotting meat in the compost bin smells repulsive and tends to attract unwanted pests like flies and rats.
Learn more about worms dying due to protein poisoning and other common causes from the following article: Composting worms can’t properly break down and process oils or other kinds of fat.
Because worms won’t eat oily foods, they’ll just sit in the bin and rot. Not only are these preservative chemicals potentially dangerous to composting worms, but your red wigglers will generally avoid them.
Most people invest in a worm bin as part of a gardening adventure or in an effort to eat and consume more thoughtfully, so if you’re bummed out about the prospect of not being able to compost your processed foods, think of it as an excuse to buy whole organic foods instead. The pungent smell that dairy products give off is bound to attract pests, and once those fats start rotting in the bin, you’re not even going to want to open it.
Here is a list of dairy products you should avoid adding to your composting worms as a food source: Imagine having to breathe a vapor of the same substance that causes you to tear up whenever you chop an onion, and that’s a pretty good idea of how albums are irritating to composting worms.
An additional drawback to albums in the composting bin is that they tend to stink a lot more than they break down compared to other fruits and vegetables. Like citrus rinds, bread tends to mold quickly when introduced to a compost bin, and this can lead to the introduction of mold that may or may not damage the ecosystem of the compost bin and the worms living inside it.
This will help the bread become mushy and break down into the soil before it has a chance to grow airborne mold. Composting worms can only eat and absorb food that is in a very small, very soft state, which means that you can’t just throw large dry leaves of old cabbage or some other starchy food into the compost bin and expect the worms to be able to process it quickly or efficiently.
If you place food in the compost bin in pieces that are too big, it will often begin to rot before the worms have a chance to eat it. This means that regardless of what kind of organic fruits and vegetables and grains you put in your worm bin, they need to be broken down into small pieces.
Spicy foods like peppers are also typically high in acid, and since the pH of a worm bin’s soil should be as close to neutral as possible, you don’t want to introduce any elements that can potentially cause a pH problem in your compost. You leave a Tupperware full of salad in the back of the fridge by accident until it’s growing a new life form, or one of the potatoes in your brand-new sack is mushy and leaking something that smells vile.
If the food has already begun to rot in the open air without soil exposure, it’s probably not a great idea to throw it in the worm bin even if it’s organic. As soon as you add high levels of fat or protein to a food, it is not suitable for a worm or compost bin.
To get a better understanding of where to draw the line, read my article Can Wigglers Eat Mold and Rotten Food? This is because fresh manure is very high in nitrogen, which can actually have a detrimental effect on your composting worms.
This short YouTube video outlines the cautions to take when feeding your worms cow manure. While we’re on the subject of animal droppings, dog and cat feces from your household pets are also not a good option for a worm bin.
Not only is there the same pathogen risk that there is with adding dog feces to a worm bin, but there is also the introduced factor of potential biohazards involved. Homemade composting systems that involve human waste are usually against sanitary code as well, so it’s just better avoided.
Paper acts as good bedding for the worms until it finally breaks down, at which point it becomes viable food. Even if it does manage to break down a little, the plastic coating on this type of paper renders is inedible for the worms.
As long as you don’t introduce unwanted weeds or pesticides to the worm bin, lawn clippings can be a good dry addition to help balance out excess moisture, and a cut of fresh mowed grass can also help improve the worm bin’s smell when it starts to get a little ripe. One of the benefits of using fresh-cut lawn clipping is that they are still usually pretty wet when their first cut and get powdery when they are given a chance to dry out, so they can be used to either add moisture to the worm bin or detract moisture, depending on which capability you need at the time.